Obituary: English Baritone Neil Howlett Dies, Aged 85

By Logan Martell

English baritone Neil Howlett passed away on May 21, 2020. from a long-term illness. He was 85.

Born on July 24, 1934, in Mitcham, London, Howlett was educated at St. Paul’s Cathedral School and King’s College in Cambridge. While in Cambridge, he won the Kathleen Ferrier Award at the age of 23. His professional debut came in 1964 in the world premiere of Britten’s “Curlew River.”

Howlett spent 17 years with the English National Opera, where he not only specialized in the works of Verdi and Puccini, but created roles in new works, such as The Mirador in Gordon Crosse’s “The Story of Vasco,” and the title role in David Blake’s “Toussaint.”

He also went on to perform at the Royal Opera, Scottish Opera, and Welsh National Opera and also made appearances across Italy, France, Germany, Scandinavia, South America, and the United States.

At the end of his performing career he would sing over 80 roles including Scarpia, Iago, Macbeth, Boccanegra, Renato, Amfortas, Golaud, Count Almaviva and Jokanaan.

Howlett served as a professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama from 1974-1992, when he became Head of Vocal Studies, and Director of Repertoire Studies at the Royal Northern College of Music. After his retirement, Howlett continued to teach privately in London and Lincolnshire.

Notable recordings include the 1983 live recording of Verdi’s “Otello” with Mark Elder and the English National Opera Orchestra and Chorus, as well as the 1968 RCA recording of Strauss’ “Salome” with Erich Leinsdorf, Montserrat Caballé, and Sherrill Milnes.